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Rolls-Royce Crécy




Sir Henry Tizard, Chairman of the Aeronautical Research Committee (ARC), was a proponent of a high-powered "sprint" engine for fighter aircraft and had foreseen the need for such a powerplant as early as 1935 with the threat of German air power looming. It has been suggested that Tizard influenced his personal friend Harry Ricardo to develop what eventually became known as the Rolls-Royce Crecy. The idea was officially discussed for the first time at an engine sub-committee meeting in December 1935.


"The Chairman remarked that if it was the desire of the Air Ministry to develop a type of sprint engine for home defence....there was the question as to how far fuel consumption could be disregarded. Mr Ricardo had raised this point in a recent conversation by enquiring whether a high fuel consumption might not be permissible under certain circumstances, for if so, an investigation of the possibilities of the two-stroke petrol engine appeared to be attractive."
—Henry Tizard, The Rolls-Royce Crecy


Previous experience gained between 1927 and 1930 using two converted Rolls-Royce Kestrel engines through an Air Ministry contract had proven the worth of further research into a two-stroke sleeve-valved design. Both these engines had initially been converted to diesel sleeve-valved operation with a lower power output than the original design being noted along with increased mechanical failures, although one converted Kestrel was subsequently used successfully by Captain George Eyston in a land-speed record car named Speed of the Wind. The second engine was further converted to petrol injection which then gave a marked power increase over the standard Kestrel.
Single-cylinder development began in 1937 under project engineer Harry Wood using a test unit designed by Ricardo. Although originally conceived as a compression ignition engine, by the time Rolls-Royce started serious development, in conjunction with the Ricardo company, the decision had been taken by the Air Ministry to revert to a more conventional spark-ignition layout, although still retaining fuel injection.

The first complete V12 engine was built in 1941, designed by a team led by Harry Wood with Eddie Gass as the Chief Designer. Bore was 5.1 in (129.5 mm), stroke 6.5 in (165.1 mm), compression ratio 7:1 and weight 1,900 lb (862 kg). The firing angle was 30 degrees BTDC, and 15 lbf/ (100 kPa) supercharger boost was typical. First run on 11 April 1941, in bench-testing it produced 1,400 horsepower (1,000 kW); however, there were problems with vibration and the cooling of the pistons and sleeves. The thrust produced by the exceptionally loud two-stroke exhaust was estimated as being equivalent to a 30% increase in power at the propeller on top of the rated output of the engine. The power of the engine was interesting in its own right, but the additional exhaust thrust at high- speed and altitude could have made it a useful stop gap between engines such as the Rolls-Royce Merlin and anticipated jet engines. Serial numbers were even, Rolls-Royce practice being to have even numbers for clockwise rotating engines when viewed from the front.

The reciprocating sleeve valves were open-ended rather than sealing in a junk head – the open end uncovered the exhaust ports high in the cylinder wall at the bottom of the sleeves' stroke, leaving the ports cut into the sleeve to handle the incoming charge only. They had a stroke of 30% of the piston travel at 1.950 in (49.5 mm) and operated 15 degrees in advance of the crankshaft. The Crecy sleeve valves were of similar construction but differed in their operation compared to the rotary sleeve valve design that was pioneered by Roy Fedden, and used successfully for the first time in an aircraft engine, the Bristol Perseus, in 1932.

Unlike most two-stroke engines, supercharging was used rather than crankcase compression to force the charge into the cylinder – this also allowed for a conventional oil lubrication system instead of the total-loss type found in many two-stroke engines. Stratified charge was used where the fuel was injected into a bulb-like extension of the combustion chamber where the twin spark plugs ignited the rich mixture. Operable air-fuel ratios of from 15 to 23:1 were available to govern the power produced between maximum and 60%. The rich mixture maintained near the spark plugs reduced detonation allowing higher compression ratios or supercharger boost. Supercharger throttling was used as well to achieve idling. The supercharger throttles were novel vortex types, varying the effective angle of attack of the impeller blades from 60 to 30 degrees. This reduced the power required to drive the supercharger when throttled, and hence fuel consumption at cruising power.

Later testing involved the use of an exhaust turbine which was a half-scale version of that used in the Whittle W.1 turbojet, the first British jet engine to fly. Unlike a conventional turbocharger the turbine was coupled to the engine's accessory driveshaft and acted as a power recovery device. It was thought that using the turbine would lower fuel consumption allowing the engine to be used in larger transport aircraft. This was confirmed during testing however failures due to severe overheating and drive shaft fractures were experienced.


Test summary
The following summarises the test running programme, hours run, and highlights some of the failures experienced.

Crecy 2

11 April 1941
First run. One-piece cylinder block/head. Testing stopped due to piston failure.
Hours run: 69

October 1942 – December 1942
Three rebuilds during this period, testing stopped after 35 hours due to piston seizure.
Hours run: 67

February 1943 – July 1943
Converted to Mk II configuration (separate cylinder heads), three rebuilds during this period. Air Ministry acceptance test passed.
Hours run: 38

March 1944 – July 1944
Five rebuilds during this period. Equal length injector pipes fitted, modified supercharger drive. Two failures, sleeve valve seizure and supercharger drive failure.
Hours run: 82

August 1944 – November 1944
Successful type test passed (112 hours). Post run inspection revealed cracked big-end bearings, pistons, reduction gear housing and sleeve valve eccentric drive bearing.
Hours run: 150

March 1945 – April 1945
Attempted endurance test, piston failure after 27 hours. Two rebuilds during this period.
Hours run: 49

(Total hours: 461)

Crecy 4

November 1941
No report available.
Hours run: 55

July 1942 – August 1942
Three rebuilds, successful 50-hour test, second 50-hour test abandoned after cylinder block failure due to cracking.
Hours run: 80

September 1942 – October 1942
Two rebuilds. Completed 25-hour test successfully, second test halted after four hours running due to sleeve valve failure.
Hours run: 55

(Total hours: 293)

Crecy 6

July 1943 – February 1944
First engine built as Mk II. Eight rebuilds during this period, failures included supercharger drive failure and sleeve valve eccentric drive bolt fracture.
Hours run: 126

May 1944 – September 1944
Four rebuilds. Supercharger flexible drive failure and sleeve valve seizure.
Hours run: 93

November 1944 – February 1945
Three rebuilds, main bearing failure, piston failure.
Hours run: 128

June 1945 – August 1945
One rebuild, endurance test halted after 95 hours due to sleeve valve drive failure, 40 hours run with a propeller fitted.
Hours run: 132

(Total hours: 481)

Crecy 8

September 1943 – March 1944
Eight rebuilds, endurance test successfully completed.
Hours run: 207

April 1944
Supercharger drive failure.
Hours run: 73

June 1944 – September 1944
Five rebuilds, no failures reported.
Hours run: 32

October 1944 – December 1945
Two rebuilds, piston failure, engine fitted with exhaust turbine.
Hours run: 22

(Total hours: 336)

Crecy 10

August 1944 – February 1945
Six rebuilds, melted inlet manifold after seven hours, sleeve valve seizure after a further four hours. Two injector pump failures.
Hours run: 53

March 1945 – June 1945
One rebuild, piston failure.
Hours run: 30

July 1945 – September 1945
Two rebuilds, exhaust turbine fitted, some running without supercharger. Sleeve valve and supercharger drive failure.
Hours run: 82

(Total hours: 166)

Crecy 12

January 1945 – October 1945
Four rebuilds, exhaust turbine fitted. Turbine failure, piston failure and sleeve valve drive failure.
(Total hours: 67)


The progress of jet engine development overtook that of the Crecy and replaced the need for this engine. As a result work on the project ceased in December 1945 at which point only six complete examples had been built, however an additional eight V-twins were built during the project. Crecy s/n 10 achieved 1,798 horsepower (1,341 kW) on 21 December 1944 which after adjustment for the inclusion of an exhaust turbine would have equated to 2,500 horsepower (1,900 kW). Subsequent single-cylinder tests achieved the equivalent of 5,000 brake horsepower (3,700 kW) for the complete engine. By June 1945 a total of 1,060 hours had been run on the V12 engines with a further 8,600 hours of testing on the V-twins. The fate of the six Crecy engines remains unknown.

If the Crecy had flown it would have done so using a Hawker Henley, L3385 which was delivered to Hucknall for conversion on 28 March 1943. This aircraft remained at Hucknall until 11 September 1945 when it was scrapped without ever having the engine fitted.

Two years prior to the Hawker Henley's arrival (Summer 1941) a Supermarine Spitfire Mk II, P7674 had been delivered to Hucknall and was fitted with a Crecy mock-up to enable cowling drawings and system details to be designed. It had also been agreed that the first production Spitfire Mk III would be delivered to Hucknall in early 1942 minus its Merlin engine for fitment of an airworthy Crecy; this delivery did not occur however. A Royal Aircraft Establishment report (No. E.3932) of March 1942 estimated the performance of the Spitfire fitted with a Crecy engine and also compared this to a Griffon 61-powered variant of the type. The report stated that the Crecy's maximum power output would be too much for the Spitfire airframe but that a derated version would have considerable performance gains over the Griffon-powered fighter.


Type: 12-cylinder supercharged liquid-cooled 2-stroke aircraft piston engine
Bore: 5.1 in (129.5 mm)
Stroke: 6.5 in (165.1 mm)
Displacement: 1,536 (26 lt)
Dry weight: 1,900 lb (862 kg)
Valvetrain: Crankshaft-driven reciprocating sleeve valves
Supercharger: Gear-driven centrifugal type supercharger with variable angle of attack of the impeller blades providing up to 24 psi (165 kPa) of boost.
Turbocharger: Three engines fitted with exhaust turbine (50% scale version of Whittle W.1 turbine)
Fuel system: Direct fuel injection, 2 x CAV 6-cylinder pumps
Fuel type: 100 Octane petrol
Oil system: Gear pump
Cooling system: Liquid-cooled
Reduction gear: 0.451:1 (Left-hand tractor)
Power output: 2,729 hp (2,035 kW)
Specific power: 1.77 hp/ (78.2 kW/L)
Compression ratio: 7:1
Fuel consumption: 85.4 gal/hr (388.2 L/hr) at 2,500 rpm
Specific fuel consumption: 0.55 pints/hp/hr at 1,800 rpm (with exhaust turbine)
Power-to-weight ratio: 1.43 hp/lb (2.36 kW/kg)







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